The Yellow Dog Project is a mission to educate people on the appropriate way to approach dogs, and their owners(by asking if it’s okay to approach). They are making a movement so that dogs that need space can be easily identified by a yellow ribbon on its leash.
An important thing to remember with dogs is that needing space does not mean that it is aggressive. Dogs can need space, or be wearing certain equipment for various reasons.
Some reasons a dog may need space is fear of dogs/people, pain responses, it could simply be a dog that is still being trained or has gotten old and doesn’t handle a lot of contact well. Some rescue dogs were abused and try to escape when people approach them – these dogs don’t deserve the stress that dog-lovers could impose on them.
Dogs may wear a muzzle, or other “protective devices” potentially for being aggressive, or they could have regulations imposed on them because they look a certain way (some places have unfair regulation on dogs that look like Pit Bulls, Rottweilers, German Shepherds, and/or other breeds, but that’s for another day). Other dogs may have been deemed aggressive because their owners were attacked and the attacker got bit, which in some cities counts as strike one on a dog and requires a muzzle in public. For some other dogs however, muzzles can be used as a way to help prevent a dog from picking up unhealthy tidbits during walks. Others can be trained that a muzzle means calm – they train the dog that wearing a muzzle only happens during safe and happy times, and then use it in stressful situations(like a security blanket for kids), such as going to the vets or to an airport. So please do not fear dogs wearing muzzles, they cannot bite you even if they try and they may be just like the Spot from your childhood.
Another thing to note is that the spiked collars you see on dogs are not meant for aggressive dogs – they are meant for passive dogs. They were designed in a time that dogs ran loose and could see big dogs as threats – even though they were passive. A sudden bite on the neck could be fatal for a dog so collars were invented with small studs/spikes on them to prevent the dog from getting hurt. They are still used to this day for this purpose so please don’t judge owners with spiked collars – they may just live in a neighbourhood with a few loose dogs that want to challenge their dog. That being said, some people do use them thinking they look tough – please don’t ignore a dog based on this advice – ALWAYS give respect to the dog and owner by checking in with them if the animal is good for being approached.
And remember: a loose dog is potentially a dangerous dog. Give it appropriate space and call a rescue or local authority who can come and get the dog. If the dog approaches you and is friendly feel free to gently restrain it (with a spare leash or just affection) until authorities show up – but please don’t put pressure on a loose dog to interact with you.